Two men on a gay cruise through the Caribbean were arrested in the Commonwealth of Dominica on Wednesday and charged with indecent exposure and "buggery," a term equivalent to sodomy on the island.
In Dominica, anti-sodomy laws are strictly enforced and have strong backing from religious groups.
According to Police Constable John George, police boarded the cruise ship and arrested the two men after they were spotted having sex on their balcony by someone on the dock. In the conservative West Indian country, sex between two men remains illegal.
George identified the two men as John Robert Hart, 41, and Dennis Jay Mayer, 43, but did not release their hometowns.
Local newspaper Dominica News reports that the two tourists pled guilty to indecent exposure at the Magistrate's court in the island's capital Roseau on Thursday and were fined $890 USD each to be paid immediately. The charges for "buggery" were reportedly dropped Wednesday night because they would "take too long to expedite."
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Celebrity X Cruises, carrying roughly 2,000 passengers, departed Puerto Rico on Sunday and arrived in Dominica on Wednesday. The tour, organized by Southern California-based gay travel specialists Atlantis Events, continued on to St. Barts without Hart and Mayer.
Atlantis Events' president Rich Campbell was on the boat at the time and said that the company has organized several trips to Dominica and would "happily return."
"Many countries and municipalities that gay men visit and live in have antiquated laws on their books," he told the Associated Press. "These statutes don't pose a concern to us in planning a tourist visit."
"The guests' actions were unfortunate but minor in this case and have no bearing on our overall guest experience," he added.
Dominica News reports that many Dominicans protested what they considered to be "immoral behavior" on the ship.
"It's wrong, it's dirty - they can't do that so publicly," one onlooker told the paper. "They need to respect us and our land."
LGBT bloggers were outraged over the incident. Towleroad noted that this is the second headline-making incident for Atlantis in the Caribbean this year. In February, the tour made headlines when a passenger went overboard off of Cozumel, Mexico. He was presumed dead and the cruise ship carried on.
Kevin Farrell of the popular UnicornBooty blog questioned why the cruise stopped in Dominica in the first place, asking "Why did Atlantis bring passengers on a gay cruise to an island where being gay was illegal?"
Dominica is far less visited than its Caribbean neighbors and is known as the "Nature Island" due to its thick rainforests, cool rivers, and abundant geothermal activity. It's rumored that when Christopher Columbus returned from his second voyage to the New World, he was lost for words when the Queen asked him to describe the volcano-studded island. Instead, he crumpled up a piece of paper, tossed it on the table and said, "That is Dominica." Some 500 years later, not much has changed.
Gay cruises have had trouble in several Caribbean destinations including Jamaica and Grenada where anti-sodomy laws are strictly enforced and have strong backing from religious groups. In 2010, the Cayman Islands made headlines when it rejected the arrival of an Atlantis gay cruise after protests from local religious groups despite the fact that homosexuality is legal on the archipelago.
Cruisemates.com recommends gay cruise lines avoid Jamaica and Barbados for fear of homophobia and possible violence. They recommend stopping in other places like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands where residents are more welcoming.
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